I generally have a bit of a bias away from most kinds of jangly guitar music, as well as most forms of modern “classic rock.” I also like to think of myself as open-minded, but I am a victim of my biases, and I do tend to stay within my own bubble a lot of the time. I know that there is probably a lot of amazing music that I haven’t heard because of this. When I first put on Groom Epoch’s upcoming album ‘Solar Warden’ and heard the opening chords of Cosmic Artifice with that (vaguely) jangle-rock-esque guitar tone and dry production style, I found myself immediately put off by it. And then when Richard Ploog started to sing in his low, throaty rasp, I felt that that was the final nail in that coffin. Not even halfway through the first song, I decided that, though not necessarily because it was a bad album, ‘Solar Warden’ wasn’t really for me.
Despite that bad first impression, I trudged through the album – somewhat painfully at first – and little by little the charms of Groom Epoch became apparent. First it was through the surprisingly catchy melodies that came across well on songs like Circus Revival and Glimpse of Infinity once I got used to Ploog’s dry croak. And then I started to notice that behind Ploog’s voice, there was a lot going on musically. Utilising a standard rock-band line-up plus a prominent keyboard presence, as well as an auto-harp and the occasional violin, the band presents a layered, offbeat style of instrumentation that reminded me a little of space-rock legends Spiritualized, but with an earthier feel and less grandiosity – and injected with a healthy dose of psychedelic rock. Tracks like Cosmic Artifice, Give up the Ghost and Fodder for Zion are standout examples of this, showcasing an eclectic and experienced approach to piecing together unique, driving rhythms and progressions typical of otherwise fairly straight-forward rock music. Throw in the occasional fuzzed out guitar solo (The Fed, Fodder to Zion, Earth First) and you’ve got a very lean and listenable indie-psych-whatever rock album that doesn’t waste your time with any unnecessary flair.
But with all that said, I still feel that ‘Solar Warden’ just isn’t for me. As much as I respect the craft and the ideas showcased here, it just isn’t clicking. It’s very easy to enjoy the album while it’s playing in the background, but there’s a lack of variety and dynamics that I value in a lot of my favourite music, and the music isn’t irresistibly catchy enough for me to look past that. The idea’s themselves are fun and intriguing, but not enough for me to want to revisit this album much again after I’m done reviewing it. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t, especially if you’re familiar with the artists at work here.
I’m sure that to a lot of people familiar with the 80’s Australian indie scene, Groom Epoch will be considered something of a supergroup. Principal songwriter, drummer and singer (whoa) Richard Ploog is the former drummer of The Church, an Australian psychedelic rock band that I have heard of but never listened to. Groom Epoch also boasts a line-up of other apparently well-known Australian musicians, such as Amanda Brown (The Go-Betweens), Brett Myers (Died Pretty) and John Hoey (Lime Spiders), which I’m sure would draw in a great many people who, unlike me, are in the know. As a complete outsider, this album feels like more of an introduction, and something of a disappointing one. But I’m still very interested to delve into the scene that Groom Epoch seemingly spawned from; I’m sure it’s an absolute goldmine of great Australian music.
You can purchase your copy of the album here: http://store.socialfamilyrecords.com/artist/groom-epoch/